Patricia Brown Clinic

'LIFE' Blog

'LIFE' Blog

Handling Chemo- The Physical Side

Posted on May 29, 2016 at 7:40 PM

I wont go through each chemo treatment, one by one as saying as there was 12 of them it might get a little boring! As they were all pretty much the same, sit in a chair, cannula in (Eeeeek! Don't like it, don't like it, DON'T LIKE IT!!!!) cold cap on, 4 hours attached to the drip, cold cap off, cannula out (thank the lord), plaster on, a pink wee and home. See done in a sentence that is the reality of actual chemo, well mine anyway, please remember all chemos are different.

What does need talking about more is living with the chemo routine, you maybe how I was determined not to let cancer rule your life, but you have to let down your stubborn walls a little bit and accept to get better, you have to live your life with cancer in it for awhile and chemo will to a point, dictate your routine. But its only for a short time, 6 months seemed endless to me at the start, but it flew by! I cannot believe that I now sit at my little bistro table outside on a gorgeous sunny day writing about this, the very bistro table I sat at a year ago, nervously waiting to go to the doctors. I'm not saying you will be the same as me, but hopefully reading this will give you an insight to how chemo can fit into your life, and that life doesn't have to stop.

One thing you always tend to hear is, things get worse as chemo goes on, I heard it on Emmerdale the other week when David had his first chemo. But it is often said and I know from my own feelings in the early days, you feel positive that you are feeling good then someone will quickly tell you "it will get worse", thank you very much, nothing like a little bit of doom and gloom to brighten the day! This is not the case. Symptom wise, and I have medical proof behind this as I asked my consultant, the symptoms you experience on your first chemo are likely to follow through with every chemo. As I had felt so good I was concerned I would be in for a nasty shock later down the line and all the awful symptoms would hit me then, but not so. If you haven't experienced sickness in your first few chemo's, you are very unlikely too many treatments later. Your body is going to respond to chemo on your first one, however it reacts, is how its going to react throughout. As time goes on, you are building more of the chemo toxins in your body, but if you can drink plenty of fluid inbetween you have chance to flush as many out as you can ready for your next treatment.

I found some symptoms I experienced in my first couple of treatments got better with each chemo and I didn't suffer them at all after chemo 5. The sore mouth got less after each treatment, the bitter and metallic taste the same, the (whisper it) constipation got far better, but then I managed it better by taking Senekot a couple of days after, as long as I remembered to do this I didn't have an issue. I took the prescribed anti-sickness tablets even though I didn't feel sick, because for all I knew I might of if I hadn't of taken them. But I was so lucky I never had to have the district nurse in for the anti-sickness injections. Just because I didn't have sickness doesn't mean I don't understand how vile it is for those that do, I think everyone hates been sick, so to feel this constantly after every treatment must be hard going, but want I want to try to get across to those who haven't experienced chemo yet, don't straight away think you are going to be sick! I wasn't and there are thousands and thousands of people like me who don't either. The tiredness was the one thing that did build up, as each chemo went on I got tired sooner, when it did hit you it was, well I assume like been drugged (well lets face it you have been). I have never had to take sleeping tablets, but I assume it was similar to these, you feel knocked out and you don't even remember going to sleep. I tried to make chemo day not all about going to the hospital, so the night of chemo me and my partner would go my parent's for tea, most times a Chinese take away. My chemo was every two weeks and it was only my last two chemo's where we didn't go for tea, I just went straight home to sleep, I tried to stay awake but as soon as I sat down I just wanted to sleep, so rather than fight it, I listened to my body and slept. During cancer you become so much more in tune with your body, so it is so important to listen to what it needs. The days after chemo where I didn't feel like 'me' just lasted a little longer towards the end. My chemo was always a Thursday, early sessions I felt back to me by Sunday, as each one went on it would be Monday, Tuesday at the end it would be the week after where I felt back to myself. But let me stress, I didn't feel ill. I wish I could put it into words exactly for you but it wasn't an ill feeling at all, just not myself. I measured feeling back to me by when I wanted and Americano coffee. Yes crazy I know. I got into drinking black coffee when ( I thought) I was allergic to dairy, the more you get used to it the more you want stronger coffee, I have always limited myself to no more than two a day, but I love going out somewhere and having a good strong Americano. I didn't have sickness, but there must of been a unsettled stomach issue there slightly as I didn't fancy certain things the days after chemo, when I woke up and my first thought was coffee I knew I felt back to me. Straight after chemo the only feeling that I could complain about was the strange stomach feeling, like I've said in another blog post, if you were to down a litre of petrol (of course don't try) I assume you would feel something similar to after chemo. But it is a poison after all, a life saver, but a poison all the same. It didn't make me feel sick, but it is like a burning, unsettled feeling. This built up with each one, not so much the first 6, but definitely on the last 6 treatments.

The one side effect I did struggle with towards the end as a direct result of the chemo was pain in the arms. I aren't a wimp with pain, but this was horrible, the worst pain I have experienced. Now I aren't scaremongering here, I aren't about the drama, I only say this as if you are in a similar position you can do things to make this easier, I didn't know about it until my 11th chemo, but by knowing from the start it may make all the difference. They ABVD chemo that I had is a particular nasty one on the veins (see I can say the word now, no longer tunnels), the fact that I had to have 6 cycles of treatment meant that having chemo for 4 hours a time, every two weeks, so in the end 48 hours of chemo drugs been pumped through your veins, it is hard going on them. I thought it was my last two hour bag that caused the pain as these would where it would really build up but it was the Vinblastine drug before this, the red drug that was injected through the cannula. On the chemo ward they will tell you to say if anything feels unusual or painful, but I was told on my last two hours I could get arm pain and was given a heat pad to help. I didn't notice any pain at all the first couple, but after this it just built up and up. The first few sessions I noticed the pain, it was only a slight ache while having chemo, the next day at home it would be fine, but the few days after it would start to ache, it would burn, I'd get a strong sharp shooting pain from hand that had had the cannula which would go up my arm, it would come on so suddenly and so intense it would instantly make me feel sick, painkillers didn't work and there was no way to switch off from it. It lasted a couple of days but as I go towards my last sessions it would only stop hurting a day or so before my next. It would go numb after the sharp pain and it was the only thing that really bothered me, in my chemo experience this was the worst part. I would wear thermal gloves as much as I could after chemo, even at home as I found it got worse if my hands got cold, which been winter when I had my treatment, they got cold quite often. If I was out and about in the cold my hands would go blue, but I mean really blue, they would go numb and I couldn't pick things up. My last few chemo's the pain got worse on the last two hours, and it was worse because you knew it was coming and you had two hours of it. Like I say I have always had quite a high pain threshold so I stared off just thinking that it hurts a bit, but when I got to my 11th chemo I couldn't deny any longer it really bloody hurt! When I mentioned this to one of the nurses, she said how it was the Vinblastine that causes the pain, some people find it so painful they cant stand it and scream for it to come out. I can see where these people are coming from completely, it was not nice. I think because it is your actual veins that the pain is coming from, it is not just a pain, but a very weird pain, something that you have never experienced before. The nurse suggested I have a larger flush bag after the Vinblastine, the pain comes from when the drug is hanging around in your veins, a larger flush will technically flush it through quicker and should result in less pain, it works. I did this in my last chemo and it was still a little painful but nothing compared to what I had experienced before. Also I was on my last chemo and my veins had had enough (was with them on that!) but if you were to have a larger flush sooner when you first noticed the pain I'm sure you wouldn't find it as painful as I did, maybe not at all. The pain in the days after wasn't half as bad either.

So that was it really, I wouldn't say it go a whole lot worse as it went on other than the pain, but like I say hopefully you can learn from this if you're in the same situation and prevent this. I think we may think things get worse because you just become mentally tired, feeling mentally exhausted leads to you feeling physically tired, just like how people suffering from stress in general life will start to have physical symptoms. I was positive all through, it wasn't an act, I didn't have to work at been positive, I just stayed the person I am in general. But 6 months, even though now it seems it went quick, it is a long time. You just get tired, tired of the routine, tired of how you feel after chemo (in my case the arm pain) tired of this been your life, you start to get a longing for a normal life without cancer. You get to the point where you think ok, I've had enough of it all. I never stopped been thankful for the situation I was in, if I had to have cancer, I was glad it was what it was. But we are only human, I am only human and towards the end I had definitely had enough of treatment and was ready for a break. My blood test arm looked like a dart board with a little dot mark for every blood test, one cannula bruise would go down and then would come the next, I hated needles and was tired off having that cannula put in every two weeks, even more so as it got harder to find a good enough vein and a few attempts were needed. I was just exhausted mentally with it all. This I think is all that builds up towards the end, not so much the physical symptoms, maybe if you let the stress build and build this is when you get the physical things getting worse too. The hospital are so good at helping you to handle the physical side effects so if there is anything you are concerned about discuss it with them. But most importantly don't read through the list of side effects and assume you will get every single one, don't look for any sign of a side effect. Just go with the flow and you might surprise yourself and get very few, even none at all. Those you do get, try to be proactive in helping yourself too, some no matter what you do might stay with you, yes that part sucks but it isn't for forever. It can be had to stay strong but just hold on to the fact it isn't for forever and one day you are going to be able to wake up and say I feel great! I promise that day isn't far away :)

Categories: Cancer and Me

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